As published at Townhall.com
According to ABC News, 2008 presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may have recently called his moderate-right credentials into question. "McCain has tapped a controversial academic to be a member of his virtual 'kitchen cabinet,'" ABCNews.com noted. That academic -- Niall Ferguson of Harvard University -- is, according to David Weigel of Reason magazine, a "foaming-at-the-mouth 'national greatness conservative.'" This academic has presented, according to Priyamvada Gopal of Cambridge University in Britain, an "aggressive rewriting of history, driven by the messianic fantasies of the American right."
Who is this dastardly intellectual twisting the liberal media's beloved "Maverick" McCain into a burgeoning Caesar? Ferguson is a prominent historian who believes that the British Empire brought a great deal of good to the world through its colonialism. More controversially, he believes that America is an empire. "It is an empire in denial," Ferguson writes in his book Empire. "Perhaps the reality is that the Americans have taken [the role of the old British Empire] without yet facing the fact that an empire comes with it."
Ferguson's statements seem almost tautological. In economic and military terms, America is clearly an empire. Yet those on the left shy away from the idea of an American empire, uncomfortable with the dictatorial and colonialist connotations of the term. Few members of the right think America's global dominance is a bad thing, and those who do, like Pat Buchanan or the old-style libertarians, are hardly in the mainstream. The American left, however, believes that as American power grows, so too does global hardship. Conservative foreign policy philosophy can be summed up with the phrase, "What is good for America is good for the world." Liberal foreign policy philosophy can be summed up with the phrase, "Shut up, you ethnocentrist bigot!"
American liberalism is an offshoot of European leftism, and European leftism is a 20th-century reaction to European hegemony over the past five centuries. European leftism sprung from the embers of a dying empire; Britain's self-loathing and breast-beating over its colonialist history only became an issue after British power had dissipated. Self-flagellation is a luxury only empires of the past can afford; it is also a useful tactic for past empires now fearing retaliation. More than anything, however, the Europeans rely on the strength of America to protect them against their past discretions. They can apologize for their ideals without consequence, since America will shield them from their Third World-assisted suicide. Europe can retreat to the international Green Acres Retirement Community and murmur softly over its bloody hands. America will foot the bill.
The American left wishes to practice the post-hegemonic multiculturalism of the Europeans and skip over the centuries of empire, which it sees as inherently exploitative and evil. This ignores three crucial facts. First, European multiculturalism is inherently flawed. Europe's colonialist history does not excuse the evils of other cultures, nor does it negate Europe's legacy of reason and liberty, which came to fruition in America. Second, America has no choice in the matter of empire; we cannot decline the honor. Doing so would entail abandoning our economic system and our Judeo-Christian values -- our raison d'etre. Third, no one will pay for our Green Acres retirement package. There is no global community willing to allow countries to live peacefully on their pensions. A weak country in the absence of a protector is a country on the verge of extinction. America has no protector. The Europeans are content in their decadence. We and we alone are the last pillar of Western civilization.
America is not an empire of the past. It is today's empire, and it is far stronger than any empire in modern history. America cannot rely on any other empire to protect it; it must protect itself. And America cannot maintain its global status if the American left insists on viewing America as just another country, no better and sometimes worse than any other. America cannot maintain her power, and by extension her safety, if the American left spends its time pushing for America to apologize for its own principles.